DALLAS, August 26, 2014 – Physician leaders representing nine Texas health care systems gathered in Dallas in July as part of the Texas Care Alliance (TCA) to discuss collaborative efforts to accelerate medical innovation in patient care across the state.

TCA was founded by Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH) and Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals and Clinics (TMFHC) of Tyler in March 2013 to improve the overall health of a defined population by developing health care service models that are patient-centered and physician-driven. TCA also includes Community Hospital Corporation, Plano; Good Shepherd Health System, Longview; Hendrick Health System, Abilene; Medical Center Health System, Odessa; Midland Memorial Hospital, Midland; Shannon Medical Center, San Angelo; and United Regional Health Care System, Wichita Falls. The systems’ service areas cover 193 Texas counties with more than 6,800 employed or affiliated physicians.

At the July event, Jim Rohack, M.D., TCA board member and BSWH chief health policy officer, said the organization provides “a way to take the best talents we have in our institutions to come up with better ways to treat our patients. We are a learning collaborative of doctors and health systems working together to improve quality and control costs.”

Dr. Rohack said population health strives to “balance the greatest need for the individual versus the greatest good for the greatest number. In the new health care environment, providers must be proactive in identifying and engaging patients, regardless of whether these patients require treatment. By focusing on the population as a whole, physicians and hospitals can more accurately predict and manage treatment and resource needs of patients who are likely to seek care in the future.”

To help facilitate physician interaction among member organizations, TCA has formed three physician groups. Each group is focused on a specific part of the process of implementing change throughout TCA. Dr. Rohack said the Best Care Committee, composed of physician leaders from the participating systems, will direct and guide TCA’s clinical and physician initiatives. The Clinical Effectiveness Task Force will identify best practices and innovation to drive outcomes improvement in specific clinical areas, and work with the Physician Leadership Council to disseminate the findings among TCA members.

Physician leaders who attended the meeting expressed enthusiasm about the TCA and what it could do for their respective health systems.

Bruce Becker, M.D., chief medical officer at Medical Center Health System in Odessa, said he was “looking forward to the journey and experience” of belonging to TCA. He pointed out that many of the systems’ chief medical officers and vice presidents of medical affairs have fostered mutual trust by working together on a variety of other initiatives prior to joining TCA.

“We have shared many good ideas in the past and will do so in the future. Ultimately what we all want is to put the patient first, and achieve clinical excellence through evidence-based medicine and superior outcomes,” he said.

Irv Zeitler, D.O., vice president of medical affairs at Shannon Medical Center in San Angelo, said TCA is “an appropriate step toward helping medical staff prepare for what’s coming in health care. We are in a big transition from fee-for-service to value-based medicine, and population health is a big part of that. Change like that is hard for hospitals, the physicians, staff and patients. TCA will help us get through this transition.”

Steve Faehnle, M.D., chief medical officer at Hendrick Health System in Abilene, said his system “will have access to things that we cannot do on our own and access to data that we don’t know how to catch. We will have access to experts to help us evaluate that data. My hope is that this will expand our capabilities for our stand-alone hospital that does not have the dollars or personnel to do this on our own.”

Steven Keuer, M.D., TMFHC chief medical officer, said young physicians learned their craft from physician mentors, and TCA replicates that by allowing physicians to share best practices with their peers across the state in a collaborative model.

“We are much better together than separately. Instead of seeing patients one at a time when they’re sick, TCA will help us develop better capabilities for managing entire populations. The mission of TCA is to create a learning network of like-minded doctors and health systems that care about improvement. We have a data platform that becomes more robust when we learn from it together. All of our communities need us to do this,” he said.

Roger Fowler, M.D., TMFHC chief of primary care, said, “Why wouldn’t all regional groups want to be a part of TCA? In reality, we are all trying to do the same thing. We want to provide the appropriate services a patient needs, and do so in every visit. This is an opportunity to capture the data to allow us to do that. We will manage patients in a brand new way.”

“Payers and employers are demanding providers to assume greater levels of financial risk for managing the care they deliver to their covered populations, but most hospitals and physician groups don’t have the latest staff or technology competencies to be competitive,” said Doug Brown, president of Black Book Market Research regarding a recent survey about accountable care organizations.

The reason for the difficulties, said Brown, is that providers do not have the appropriate staff or latest technology to provide the competencies to be competitive. TCA serves as a resource to address those needs for Texas hospitals and health systems.

Dr. Rohack concluded the TCA physician meeting by noting, “It is an exciting time to be in health care. I’m convinced, as physicians, we must make the shift to value-based care because the reality is the alternative options aren’t so good. I would rather be in control of the system and create a future by doing it ourselves rather than having it be done to us. TCA allows us to develop a physician-driven model for change, supported by evidence-based best practices, which will serve as catalyst for physicians and hospitals to improve health care delivery for the patients we serve.”

About Texas Care Alliance
Texas Care Alliance (TCA) was created as a “central organization” designed to build expertise in population health management, capitalize on economies of scale, and accelerate the rapid adoption of clinical and operational best practices. In doing so, the nine member health systems of TCA seek to improve and integrate the key pieces of the healthcare value chain through a shared commitment to adopt common metrics, measure performance, and share clinical and administrative best practices.